At Eugene Science Center, we want all of our visitors to see themselves as potential scientists and engineers. We are especially concerned with the lack of gender diversity in science. Research shows that girls and women are not choosing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers at the same rate as boys and men, and are therefore underrepresented in STEM fields. We want to do our part to address and correct this imbalance.
We have three main programmatic approaches:
We examine all of our exhibits, programs, and events through a gender-equity lens. Research-backed projects such as SciGirls have identified strategies that work for engaging girls in STEM. These same strategies have also been proven to work with other audiences of learners.
We offer certain programs in a gender-exclusive or gender-balanced setting. Research has shown that some girls excel in single-gender environments. ChickTech points out that “In an all-girl setting, every leadership position is filled by a girl. Girls interact with more female role models including capable and dynamic women from diverse backgrounds. In all-girl environments, girls are recognized for their achievements. This can result in a boost of self-confidence and a heightened awareness of what girls and young women can achieve.”
Our Girls’ Science Adventures is a partnership with the UO Women in Graduate Sciences that allows girls to experience science and technology in a career-oriented setting and with the guidance and mentorship of working female scientists. We also identify a few of our Summer Science Adventures camps as “girl-friendly.” The content of these camps does not vary from our general camp offerings, but we attempt to offer additional opportunities for female leadership and mentorship. We also control the gender balance of these camps. (Historically, we have sometimes offered girls-only summer camps, but we have found that this proved too restrictive given the limited number of camps and spaces we can offer. We therefore attempt to strike a balance by guaranteeing a majority-girl ratio while also allowing some boys to participate.)
We offer incentives for girls and young women to participate with us. In 2017, for example, we received a grant from the Zonta Foundation of Eugene-Springfield which allowed us to provide financial assistance to girls attending our Girls’ Science Adventures, as well as girls who signed up for any of our summer camps. In recent years, we have also collaborated with the Girl Scouts and Ophelia’s Place to offer programming to the young people they serve.
We welcome your thoughts and feedback on our approach to empowering girls and women in STEM. We look forward to a future where young men and young women are equally likely to consider themselves scientists — our community, and science itself, will be better off for it.